WASHINGTON -- Carlos Santana, the Mexico-born powerhouse whose songs have stirred listeners across cultures and across generations, was among five high achievers recognized Sunday at the Kennedy Center Honors.
Santana and a fellow honoree, opera singer Martina Arroyo, were only the third and fourth Latinos in the ranks of 190 overall who have been given a Kennedy medallion. They joined past winners Placido Domingo and Chita Rivera.
Other honorees: pianist Herbie Hancock, singer-songwriter Billy Joel and actress Shirley MacLaine.
Santana, 66, who hails from a small town in Jalisco, Mexico, became a sensation at the 1969 Woodstock Festival with tunes such as "Soul Sacrifice" and "Evil Ways."His album "Supernatural" collected nine Grammys, a record, at the 2000 awards ceremony. He has 10 Grammys and three Latin Grammys.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina on the high court, celebrated the career of Arroyo, 76, a fellow New Yorker whose father was Puerto Rican and mother was African-American.
"I'm here for the diva," Sotomayor told the crowd, who gave the justice a standing ovation.
Rapper Snoop Dogg and Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, an unlikely pair, appeared in praise of Hancock.
MacLaine, 79, was dubbed by emcee Glenn Close as "a captivating redhead from Virginia with legs out to here, a heart out to there and a life too big for just one lifetime."
The evening's emotional wallop came when singers Tony Bennett and Garth Brooks led tributes to Joel, called the "poet, performer and philosopher of today's American songbook."
The 64-year-old Joel was serenaded with tunes ranging from the pop hit "Only the Good Die Young" to the gut-punching ballad to Vietnam Marines, "Goodnight Saigon," a number that was performed by Brooks and drew about 50 war veterans to the stage.
The honors, given only to living artists, recognize a person's lifetime of contributions to American culture through the performing arts: music, dance, theater, opera, film or television.
The awards show airs Dec. 29 on CBS as a two-hour, prime-time special.